Thursday, April 15, 2021

Covid and Grief Among the Amish


My daughter-in-law and I decided to stock up at the dry goods store in Smicksburg, PA. Usually Smicksburg is a healing place and we needed it.  She’d been pregnant during Covid and the talk of death made the grief of losing her dad resurface. We were also dealing with the loss of Josh, my son-in-law who died of brain cancer in October, 2020. So, going to Smicksburg seemed perfect.

When we got to the dry goods store, I noticed too many buggies lined up around the owner’s house next door. Some Amish were walking soberly. I gasped. NO! Surely not Clara! But it was Clara. She died of a heart attack. Wow, I will miss her pleasant, quirky humor. Her daughters will continue the store, but it won’t be the same.

“Let’s drive past the Bylers,” I suggested. “Maybe their greenhouses are open.”

Another lump in my throat as we approached. “No!” I near shouted as we saw many buggies, vans, and cars with Ohio license plates. As the rain beat on the window, I let it down and shouted, “Bishop Byler?” The Amish man shook his head. “I’m not Bishop Byler. I’m from Ohio.” I forced a smile. “You have a twin then. Who passed away?”

It was the mother of all Bylers who came to Smicksburg in 1963 from Ohio, the lovely woman who in her late 80s gave me a four-hour interview on their spirituality. How she relied on forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit. She amazed me and since that day I’d drop in and she’d be sewing clothes for her many grandchildren. “I’ll be sewing until I die,” she’d said.

Her husband preceded her in death by three months. I didn’t even ask what the cause of death was. We all knew they were in their 90s and that virus took them.

Somehow Smicksburg wasn’t my slice of heaven that day. The only thing that helped was their view of death and not questioning the timing of God. The sovereignty of God. I had to admit that since Josh passed, I’ve struggled. Why, God? He was only thirty years old. His sons need him. My heart hurts. Where are you in all this?

So, despite the stages of grief, the Amish simple trust in God helps me again. I’m looking for more help, and I’d like to mention that a letter from our Compassion child in Uganda made me see things from a childlike faith.
“I’m not afraid of Covid. God knows my beginning and end,” Owen wrote.

Owen is six. Death is not foreign to him. It is to us living in America. Many don’t know what to say to my widowed daughter.

I’m taking time away from novel writing for a season. It was an easy decision. My book, 31 Days to a Simple Life, talks about simplicity of mind. My family will always come first. My grandsons need Tim and me to take them on a train trip, go to the zoo, have another sleep over and the list goes on.  I don’t want to be too busy to see what’s important. And to accept the things I cannot change, as the Amish put it.

Clara was proud of her a good way! 

The many spools that feed into the loom is truly an art. Clara was the best.

Life goes on among the Smicksburg Amish, despite the loss. 

Josh until the end, trying to make good memories for his family.